UNUSUAL EXOTIC VEGETABLES IN BRITAIN

J.-M. K. Bell, D.G. Coursey
During the past two decades, there has been a substantial influx of people of non-European origin into Britain, mainly from the Caribbean area and the Indian sub-continent. A recent paper by Brough (1971) has suggested that the numbers now resident in the United Kingdom are over a million, made up of approximately 600,000 West Indians, 150,000 Pakistanis and 270,000 Indians, i.e. around two per cent of the total population of the country. In addition, there are smaller numbers of Africans, mostly Nigerians or Ghanaians, who are resident or in transit in Britain.

These people frequently have food habit orientations which are substantially different from those of the indigenous population and in many cases they exhibit strong emotional attachments to the traditional food products of their countries of origin. Very little documentation exists on this subject but it is evident from data published by McKenzie and Mumford (1964), McKenzie (1967) and Gans (1967) that vegetables constitute a major proportion of the specialised markets catering for these groups. In particular, McKenzie (1967) has drawn attention to the strong preference of West Indians for their traditional carbohydrate staple foods such as yams, dasheens and sweet potatoes, even when such products are substantially more expensive than similar alternatives such as potatoes. Similar emphasis on carbohydrate staples has been noted in Africa by Uchendu (1970). A number of green or leafy vegetables are also typical of the diets of these immigrant groups.

These and other products were not formerly imported into Britain, except in very small quantities as curiosities, but a specialised trade has been built up within the last two decades, especially to supply the immigrant food market. The trade has developed very largely outside the traditional framework of fruit and vegetable marketing in Britain. Problems have been encountered, arising from the unfamiliar nature of the materials involved and the small quantities which are handled; many of the firms involved are often short of capital and technical expertise. Retail prices to the consumer therefore tend to be extremely high. The position has however improved considerably in recent years and there is a tendency for the trade to be concentrated in a more limited number of individually larger firms.

This paper discusses the principal items of vegetable imports to this market, the quantities involved, countries of origin and some specific technical problems. It may be that some of the vegetable exporting countries represented at this Symposium may be potentially capable of supplying sectors of this market but have not considered doing so until now, due to a lack of adequate information. The term "vegetable" has been interpreted broadly and includes plant materials such as leaves, fruits, roots, tubers or other organs which are vegetables in the culinary sense

Bell, J.-M. K. and Coursey, D.G. (1973). UNUSUAL EXOTIC VEGETABLES IN BRITAIN. Acta Hortic. 33, 29-42
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1973.33.4
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.1973.33.4

Acta Horticulturae